Like many of the books I read, my mom gave me the Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes on a trip home earlier this year. I had seen a few of Rhimes’ shows – I followed Scandal pretty closely in college until it got too torture-y and watched the first season of How to Get Away with Murder because they’d filmed a few episodes at Bryn Mawr – but I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan of hers. I had heard good things about the book, though, and as an influential woman of color in the entertainment industry I was interested in hearing her thoughts on media and TV today.
Little did I know it would also be my feel good book of the summer.
I’m a sucker for personal project memoirs: I ate up Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project back in high school, for example. So, I loved the premise from the start. I’m a big believer in personal development and self care (see my last whole post about this) so I really resonated with her impulse to challenge herself as a way of bettering of her life. I also loved her writing voice – it’s so personal, conversational, and engaging. I flew through the book because the writing was so easy to read.
There was a lot I liked about the book, but here are a few things that really stuck out to me:
- It was refreshing to read a book about an accomplished, creative, unmarried woman. As I’m entering my mid-20s I’m starting to see a lot of my friends get into serious relationships and get married, which is awesome. But I’m not always so sure it’s for me. I’m definitely an introvert and I really can’t imagine living with someone longterm in a way that makes me feel as fulfilled as living alone does. Shonda Rhimes really beautifully talks about how her creativity will always be her #1 and she could never live up to the commitment of marriage because of that. I let out a sigh of relief at those words – it’s really powerful to hear her make that choice and helped me recognize that no one path is right. Whatever is right for you is what is right.
- Saying Yes comes in many forms. Her first chapters talk about her decision to say Yes to events she typically says no to: interviews, speeches, panel discussions, etc. But then she goes on to describe other ways she says yes – yes to playtime, yes to health, yes to compliments, yes to hard conversations. She talked about “finding the Yes” in every situation: what here isn’t working and what can I embrace to make that change. I like the idea of finding the unexpected Yes in things.
- You define your own success – even if other people think you’re already successful. Shonda Rhimes was already super famous when she wrote this book. She could have accepted that this is what success felt like and left it at that and no one would have questioned it. Instead, she made sure she was in charge of defining success for herself. Yeah, sometimes it was work related, but other times it was really personal and she still made those things a priority. Just a good reminder that life is more than what it looks like from the outside.
I would recommend Year of Yes if you’re on the hunt for a fun-loving, self-help book. I read this genre a lot before I go to bed at night and this one stood out as a particularly quick read. It’s inspirational without being too cheesy and spoke to a lot of the things I’m thinking about as a young woman today. I also want to make it a goal to ready more books by people of color since my reading list has definitely been pretty white lately. Would love recommendations on what to pick up next or to hear your thoughts if you’ve read this one!